The snow maiden
Compiled by John Millen
Deep in the dark forests that cover northern Russia lived an old woodcutter and his wife. The couple were sometimes sad because they did not have children. A child would have brought warmth and joy into their cabin. But it was not to be, and the old couple never spoke of their sadness to each other.
One morning, the woodcutter needed to stay at home to cut logs. His wife helped him clear an area of snow so that he could work with his axe and saw. The old man suddenly smiled as he saw the snow which was piling up by the front door of their hut.
'Do you remember we used to make snowmen when we were teenagers? Let's have a bit of fun and make a snow figure. Let's make ourselves a daughter of snow!' he said.
The two of them began shaping the snow into the form of a human. The happy couple did not know that Father Frost, an ancient winter god who lived in the forest, was watching them. He felt sorry for the old childless couple and decided to give life to the snow figure they had created.
What was happening? The woodcutter watched in disbelief as their snow figure began to take on a human form. In just a few minutes, a beautiful teenage girl was standing in front of them. She was dressed in a sparkling pale blue gown, and over her shoulders, she wore a cape of white fur.
'I'm Snegurochka, your daughter. Please welcome me into your home,' she said.
The woodcutter and his wife were delighted that they now had such a beautiful and helpful daughter.
The snow maiden helped with the daily chores and brought laughter and happiness into the couple's hut. Winter was now not as long and difficult as it had been before.
When the woodcutter and his wife were out working, their daughter sat by a window and looked out at the icy forest. Sometimes she would see people passing by on the road that led into town.
Snegurochka had noticed that a young man always stared at the cabin as he walked past. One morning, the young man stopped and looked straight at Snegurochka, who was sitting behind the frosted glass of the window. Then he walked over to the cabin and gestured for the girl to open the window.
'My name is Alex and I'm a music teacher in town,' he said. 'I have seen you so many times at your window. Will you come into town with me one day? I will show you around and look after you. Please say you will come with me one day. Please!'
Father Frost had told Snegurochka that she must never leave the woodcutter's cabin alone. He had cautioned her that the old couple were the only humans she should ever know. The snow maiden knew that she was not really human and that she could never feel as humans do. Father Frost had told Snegurochka that disaster would follow if she disobeyed him.
One late winter morning, Alex came again to Snegurochka's window, and in a moment of weakness, she agreed to go with him once, and only once, to town. She put on her white fur cape, opened the cabin door and ran outside. Alex took her hands in his, and suddenly Snegurochka felt a warmth in her heart that she had never felt before.
The ice maiden's feet and legs began to melt as the warmth spread and Alex watched in horror as her body collapsed onto the ground. In just a few moments, Snegurochka had vanished and only her dress and cape were left in a wet pile at Alex's feet. Alex stood rooted to the spot for a few moments and then ran off into the forest.
He ran past the woodcutter and his wife, who were returning home from a trip into town.
They had bought their daughter a new pair of fur boots and were excited about getting home and giving her the gift.
'Let's walk a bit quicker,' the woodcutter said to his wife, who had a big smile on her face.
'I can't wait to see our daughter's face when she opens her parcel. We have a wonderful daughter, don't you think? We have the best daughter in the whole wide world.'
1 Why were the woodcutter and his wife sad sometimes?
2 What idea did the woodcutter have one day as he was clearing the snow?
3 Who decided to do a good deed for the woodcutter and his wife, and what was that?
4 What was Snegurochka forbidden to do?
5 What were the terrible consequences of Snegurochka's disobedience?
1 The couple didn't have any children.
2 He thought it would be fun to make a snow figure.
3 Father Frost decided to make the snow figure come alive.
4 Snegurochka was forbidden to leave the cabin alone and get close to other human beings.
5 She felt a warmth in her heart when she met Alex and her body melted.